Under the Snow

Yowsers! There's a fair bit to catch up on, so I'm not going to bother.

GUATEMALA: I finished the sponsorship promotional video, subtitling and all. We left on a Tuesday morning for Guatemala City and spent a day there getting some of our residency papers done. While on my way to sign some paper downtown I saw a murdered person laying on his back in the middle of the street with a newspaper over his face (he'd been shot in the face). My appointment was one block up the street.

THE FLIGHT: I was grateful that the two landings weren't the regular kamikaze landings that one expects from Continental. The Department of Homeland Security did a fine job in Houston - they checked my shoes, belt, computer, laptop, video camera, and everything in between. An old guy helped us with our luggage just before customs and told me horror stories about people who were taken to the side rooms. I thought maybe he was an agent trying to milk me for info or see if I would make a break for it - but it turns out he just wanted a tip. Blaise slept for 30 minutes on the first flight (3 hrs), twitching the entire time. He was sopping wet when we landed in Houston and our connection was only an hour long so we had to make it to the gate before we changed him (immigration, luggage, customs, luggage check, security, long walk to the gate). Needless to say both Amber and I smelled like urine once we boarded plane #2.

RED DEER: Not as cold as we had anticipated. My mom really enjoyed Blaise and serving us - which we enjoyed too. I went to two movies the day after we flew in, then another when I returned (The Prestige, Borat, The Departed).

EDMONTON: Spent a night with my sister and Dean, her manslave. Then a two nights at our friends' mansions. Every place has hot water!! Had some great visits with friends and we're still on the schedule. I spoke at church - probably too long, but I was relaxed and had lots of eye contact. Saw a couple movies here too (Apocalypto, The Pursuit of Happyness).



I was listening to a podcast of Dispatches, from CBC Radio 1 and heard my name! Check it out (the Dec 5 show) ... I'm at 18:21. You can get the episode free from the iTunes Music Store aswell - search for Dispatches in the podcasting section.



We were invited to see Santa Claus when he briefly swung into Tactic on the weekend at our neighbours' store. As you can see, the weather was ideal and Santa was seen by a host of people.

Blaise was one of the lucky ones to be held by Santa. Not sure why there's bad blood here...

Banking in Guatemala

I've been spending a lot of time at the bank. We have a cash float which we use to buy gifts that are sent from Canada for sponsor children and then submit our receipts to balance our float. Lately, the gifts have been huge - building a house for example. So our float is always empty and I'm always going to the bank to cash cheques.

Yesterday, I waited in line outside for 30 minutes and then another 10 minutes inside. The guy ahead of me had a gym bag that he hoisted up onto the counter when it was his turn. He proceeded to hand bags of change (mostly 1 quetzal coins - equivalent to CAN$0.16) which was then counted and deposited. This took a while. Fortunately there were two tellers.

Last Friday at the BANCO AGROMERCANTIL there was an old farmer ahead of me with a deposit slip. I glanced at it and it had Q14 or $2.16.

This morning I waited in line for 30 minutes in a larger bank, BANRURAL, to make a deposit into our notary public/lawyer's account. The tellers, receptionists and loans officer seemed to have their own little activities while the rest of us waited. And there were a lot of us.

When the ATM in Tactic is empty, it's empty for days at a time.

If you have a cheque from say the Banco Industrial, you are only permitted to cash that cheque at a BANCO INDUSTRIAL. You can not just deposit the cheque into your Banco Agromercantil account. You have to cash it at the BI, then go to your own bank. You can see long lines of people on Friday afternoons waiting to cash their weekly or monthly cheques. This is also how we pay our electric bills.

As an aside, I just spent $4.63 to courier a package 4 hours away overnight to Guatemala City. To do an overnight courier in Canada it cost me $27.13 from Kamloops to Calgary.


What Is Important?

Blaise's Current Vocabulary:
(he's 16.5 months old)

moahmorewuhziswhat's this?
cacacrackerwhoo whoodog
dehdoothank youno-onose
bye byebye byeee-eeear
tahtahtahhot hot hotah-eeeye
cocoPoco (his favorite TV show) or TVqueque (what in Spanish)


Door-to-Door Salespeople

A woman knocked on our door this late afternoon. She was selling bean tamales with a nice hot salsa. How could I resist at a mere $0.16 each! Her husband was at the end of our driveway waiting with the vehicle (a bicycle) in the rain with the food goods.

Since we've lived here, the door-to-door salesfolk have been frequent. Oranges. Handwoven Large Baskets. Warm Pizza. Cashews. Tortillas. Yogurt. Goat's Milk. Pressure Cooker Repairs. Prepared food of the Guatemala Variety. A Shoe Shine.

For me, pity kicks in easily. I yield more to the desire to pick up the determined and downtrodden salesman than to the appeal of the product or service. Though I must say these bean tamales are delish.

It is difficult to see so many people spinning their wheels in unproductive ventures. There is a man who probably walks 20 kms each sunny day selling homemade ice cream from a styrofoam box to which is attached a jingling bell. I tried a cone of his iced cream once and it wasn't very good. What could I expect for $0.16? So what can be done to help the uneducated? Educate them! But how? There are many obstacles to their financial success: First the education (this is huge as it often involves common sense). Then the capital. Then the purchasing base (who do you sell to when everyone around you is poor?). Then the money management (making sure they don't spend their money on useless things).



Over the past year, I've run into or been referred to some remarkable pieces of interesting art. 6 are here linked for your pleasure.

-The Helsinki Complaints Choir with a song by Esko Grundström, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen. (thanks Carl for sending this to me)

-Billboard Top Song Timelapse by R. Luke DuBois. Dubois fed 857 songs between 1958 and 2000 into his laptop and gave every week 1 second where he crunched the top song of that week.

-Single-Paper Art by Peter Callesen. Magnificent and often meaningful paper sculptures cut from one piece of paper and completely connected. (thanks Kevin)

-Animatus by Hyungkoo Lee. Look at classic cartoon characters' skeletons. Brilliant! (thanks again to Kevin)

-The Honda Choir. A vocal rendition of automobile sounds. (thanks to Kevin again for this one)

-Rick Mercer's Photoshop Challenges: Harper vs. Martin, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and George W. Bush, Paul Martin, Ralph Klein, Jean Chretien, and most recently Jason Kenney. (thanks April for telling me about Mercer's blog)

Post 200

Average posts per week since I started* blogging: 1.5
Average posts per week over the last 100 posts: 2.35
Average number of comments per post: 2.34

Thank you everyone for reading and commenting. You are all superstars.

*(not counting the first year with only 1 post)

28-Year-Old Honey

My honey is TWENTY-EIGHT years old today. 28 on the 28th. She calls it her golden birthday.

I have to go make her some breakfast now while she is still sleeping... shhh.


Weekend in Honduras

We took off Friday afternoon dragging our buddy Mariah from St. Albert with us so we could get to Ruinas Copán, Honduras in time for supper. Stopped and had licuados (smoothies) in El Rancho. We got another stamp in our passports (the last possibly for mine as I'll be getting a new one in December).

We stayed in our usual hotel, Hotel Calle Real and ate at our usual restaurant, Via Via. Mariah got her Christmas shopping done and we watched a couple movies on HBO in our hotel.

Blaise did not sleep well. Last night, he woke up 4 times screaming. The first time at 11 pm. After 30 minutes of soothing and exploring all possible solutions he went to sleep only to be woken up 10 minutes later by a rooster (I'd like to clean that rooster's clock!). So, I've been pretty tranced out.

I visited the ruins again with Mariah. They were still there and still old. This is the famous estela head from the ruins (on all the postcards). Notice the whiskers. Notice the angry nose. Entrance to the park is relatively expensive - US$15 - compared to Tikal - US$6.50 - and you have to pay another US$15 to get into the tunnels which we didn't pay. As we approached the tunnels, one of the guards approached us and offered us an under the table deal as long as we didn't talk about it. So we got to see the tunnels for US$4 each. I must say that they are not worth US$15. Maybe not even US$4. But it was cool. The coolest part being the deal. The ruins are layered because subsequent rulers would build a whole other set of new ruins (ha ha) on top of the old ruler's ruins. It's hard to appreciate everything your seeing because it's mostly worn down carvings and all the really interesting stuff is gone (the people, animals, furniture, paint, roofs, and wooden substructures).

This is a Guacamaya. There are lots of them at the ruins park.

Last night we enjoyed some ritzy food at place called Twisted Tanya's. I had filet mignon with a light jalapeño sauce, a lovely salad, and cheesecake. The cheesecake had to come home with us because Blaise was really tired. I slept through most of Batman Forever after I ate my dessert. I also enjoyed some cheese pupusas, carrot soup, waffles, bread pudding, a great big burrito and some nice beverages over the weekend.

It was good to get away and feel our extremities again.

Steaming Horse

Amber pointed out the horse outside our house early one morning. This is how cold it is inside of our house. I'm not trying to have a cold competition with my Canadian friends who are always quick to point out the -84°C weather they are experiencing. Perfectly clear. Understood. But how many of you have 3°C inside your house? My joints were stiff due to the consistent rain and cold we've had in town the past few weeks.

Consequences of the cold:

-Amber and I get up in the night and scurry in our heavy layered PJs to Blaise's bed to ensure that he is covered up. He routinely kicks off his blankets... for kicks.

-Our house has a distinct campfire smell because when it's windy the smoke from our meager fires can not escape to the outside and stays inside. With us. Cough cough.

-Amber managed to convince me that going to Copan, Honduras for the weekend was a good idea since it's hot there. It's her birthday on Tuesday, so I went along (or rather drove the 250 km through mountain passes, desserts and border crossings).

-Showers are taken when they are needed. Well, that's not true. They are taken when we agree that they are needed. Low pressure and volume doesn't make it a pleasant experience. Besides, not many people can smell you when you have so many layers on.


Chocolate Mint of Anguish

Mariah was kind enough to share one of her chocolate mints with me this morning. It was perhaps the most foul thing that has gone into my mouth. I howled and spat and sputtered and winced and shuddered. Think cat poop and antifreeze (no, I haven't tasted either, but free your imagination). Mariah ate two of them. She thought they were a little off. I had to drop oil of oregano and then deepfry my tongue to regain coherence. Poison!

I'd love to know what was wrong with these things. Where are my chemical lab techs? The expiration date was sometime in 2008 and we've had the same mints before and they were fine. Not sure if I'm brave enough to try them again.


RSS. Do it.

If you're scared of computers, don't worry, this is simply meant to make your life easier.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows you to know as soon as a new news item is posted on your favorite news website or when your favorite blogs have a new post. This eliminates the necessity of having to visit each website to see if something knew has been posted. For example, I know that I don't have to visit Justin's blog, because he hasn't posted anything new since November 4. I do know however that there are seven new articles on the How Stuff Works website since I last looked at the feed. All you get are the headlines and a short description or the first few lines of the article, so you can browse ad free and click on the articles or blog posts that most interest you. All Blogger blogs automatically generate an RSS feed.

To take advantage of all this, you need an RSS reader. I use one that is built into my browser Safari on my Mac. Easy as anything to add an RSS or XML (same thing basically) feed to your bookmarks. Any page that carries a feed will have an RSS or XML on the right end of the URL (website address). Just click on that and you get the RSS page, then add to favorites.

Windows has a whole bunch of RSS readers too. I'm sure Sirdar or kevininspace can recommend one. Firefox and Explorer have RSS reader plugins that you can download.

Some feeds that I subscribe to are the Edmonton Oilers, Wired, CBC Canadian News, New York Times Movie News, Apple News, and of course Strength and Honour Showtimes.

iPod takes flight (part II)

I ordered the new 5th generation iPod. Black. 80 GB. Colour screen supporting videos and photos. As far as FedEx is concerned, it's still in Shanghai at the moment. I only get it once I arrive in Canada on Dec 13.

What's super cool about this iPod is that I can keep photos (which I can use for work) and video* (which I can use for fun). The 80 GB is hardly enough though with 61 GB of music and 14.4 GB photos (both expanding) doesn't leave room for video. I'll have to pick and choose what goes on. A few disappointing features: this iPod can't synch with FireWire, just USB 2.0. My laptop only has FireWire and USB 1.1, so I have to synch it exclusively with my desktop compy. Also, all the gadgets I had for my old iPod (iTalk, RoadTrip, and dock) may not work with this iPod. I am hoping to get my podcast back on track by using my iPod as a voice recorder on the field. We'll see.

My first iPod (stolen, see previous post) was a 3rd generation. White. 40 GB. B/W screen.

*any movie converted to H.264 video, up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per sec.


Our house was robbed of $8000 worth of stuff nearly nine months ago. The thief is still anonymous and likely still suffering guilt. The most painful feelings from this have subsided mostly, though everytime someone else we know get robbed, the wound reopens a bit.

There has been an incredible miracle that followed the theft however. I wrote in our latest newsletter about how nearly all the items that were stolen had been restored. Well, now all of them, save some DVDs, have been replaced. We can only attribute this to God's faithfulness to us. I've learned to trust Him more and release a lot of the anxiety that followed the theft. Here's a detailed list of what was stolen and how it was replaced:

300 DVDs138 DVDsfriends mostly
3.1 MP digital Camera5.0 MP digial camera 
iPod 40GBiPod 80 GBtax refund money
DV Camcordernew DV Camcorder 
Nikon F65 SLRNikon F65 SLRgift from François
Diaper BagDiaper Baggift from Aunt Gaylene
BackpackBackpackb-day gift
Men's Dress Shoesmore comfortable shoes 
Men's Sandalsmore comfortable sandals 
Women's old runnersnew runners 
Women's new flip flopsnew flip flops 
$200 cash$825gifts from Tols, Roths, Wiebes
Power Adapter for phonenew adapter 
Pocket Bible (NASB)new same Bible 
Swiss Army Knife (camping)Swiss Army Knife (biggest one)my b-day gift to myself
Beltnew belt 
Confidence in peopleMore Confidence in peopleprayers, cards, emails, phone calls

A realization that I had after the theft was that there were three ways to live in the face of the threat of theft:

A) Live simply with nothing so that nothing can be stolen.
B) Live boldly and richly without attachment to material things
C) A good combination of A and B



My nose started to run last night, so I decided to smash it behind the knees with this potent cocktail:

+3 Cold-fx capsules (600mg of CVT-E002) (or N.A. ginseng)
+5 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract (here a sham or there the world's most useful product)
+1 capsule Garlic Oil (3 mg)
+5 drops of Oil of Oregano under the tongue ("Nature's Strongest Antibiotic!")
+1 capful of delicious Fig-Honey Cough Syrup (used here purely as a chaser, or is it?)
+1 tall glass of water

I felt pretty groggy this morning, like I had a hang-over (never had a hang-over, but I imagine this is what it feels like). What am I missing from this random menagerie of mythical immune boosters?


All blades of grass

There is a dog, split in two, stretched across one lane. I answer the door in my pajamas at 7 A.M. to a man wanting to know why I needed to see his son. The bank teller still asks me how my film is coming. I eat 4 meals. My 2 o'clock appointment with Oscar and Evelin doesn't happen because they are too tired to answer their door, but they answer their phone and delay my afternoon by 45 minutes. My 8 o'clock appointment with Erick and a carpenter doesn't happen because Erick couldn't contact the carpenter. I'm one of four adults at the small group tonight, it's on God's revealing Himself to us. No hay dios quien puede hacer las obras como las que haces tu. I'm training Oscar and Evelin to take photos and collect info for sponsorship packages. My little one is eating solids again after 3 1/2 days. The printer in the office hassles me and I end up taking 45 minutes to print one 8X10 photo. Nine of twelve members of a family descend the mountain and arrive excited that we are there, measuring out their house and talking about the size of the rooms. At 8:30, I drive by a drunk man laying on his side, back to me in the dark. The Oilers won last night, but Smith is injured. Flor writes me another reimbursment cheque, so I'll go to the bank three days in a row this week. We're going to get together on December 20. Only Q3.46 left on my phone. Amber is content with the soup I brought home from tonight's meeting. What is el Libro de Ecclesiasticos in English if Ecclesiastes is el Libro de Ecclesiastes? Online chatting with Carl dissipates after a couple exchanges - there must be a hummingbird blocking the satellite signal. Thom Yorke was singing in my car all day long. We meet at 3:15 instead and head to San Antonio to plan and estimate the building of a house. I write little blurbs describing the past 10 short term teams for a ministry newsletter. "Papá." Lang is the carpenter, he's going to do the job for Q2500. Sandra has made us a tasty soup with smoked roast beef chunks in it and tamalitos as dumplings. $16,000 raised at the benefit concert for Waldrons in Africa. The Simpsons Movie is in 2D. "Only 3 cups of goat's milk today, thank you." Hector can't make it to the video shoot, so we postpone until tomorrow. I have just enough money in my wallet for Erick to buy the re-bar, cement, blocks, and sand for tomorrows delivery to San Antonio. Estuardo chases a huge wood eating beetle around the patio. There's a man peeing on the side of the street. Jairo helps me with the grammar for the photo we are printing for the mayor of Tactic in thanks for the land the town gave us. The eyes should be 1/4 of the way from the top of the picture with no lines through the head. Why do Jehovah's Witnesses call God 'Jehovah'? The making of The Big Lebowski reminds that I need to be working on my screenplay.



Amber, April, and Sirdar reminded me today that it is Remembrance Day. I don't pay much attention to dates here, plus, it's a balmy 24℃ outside so it's hard to even remember that it's November.

It doesn't take much to get me choked up about Remembrance Day. Everytime I go to a service or watch a program or listen to the minute of silence on the radio, I am overwhelmed with the sacrifice. I put together a slideshow to Rod Stewart's Forever Young of fallen Canadian soldiers for a school I worked at a few years ago. I updated it a bit a few weeks ago for the principal and sent it to him for this year's assembly.

I got up at 4 am today. Could not sleep and there was so much traffic. I decided to watch one of my movies that I haven't seen before, Amen., directed by Costa-Gavras. IMDB's synopsis is
Two systems: the Nazi machine versus the Vatican and Allied diplomacy. Two men struggling from the inside. On one side, Kurt Gerstein, a real-life chemist and SS officer, supplied the death camps with zyklon B while he tirelessly denounced the crimes and alerted the Allies, the Pope, the Germans and their churches at his family's and his own risk. On the other, Ricardo Fontana, a young Jesuit, a fictitious character who represents all the priests who had the heart to struggle against savagery, often paying for their courage with their lives. Countless priests, some known, others anonymous, who simply were not content to live with the silence of their church's hierarchy.

I guess today I remember the soldiers who were put in situations they did not expect to be in.

Driving Around

It is not uncommon to see some startling sights from my car. Here are a few recollections from the past week.

As I wait for cattle to cross the road returning from San Antonio, I watch from from my car as a bull attempts repeatedly to mount a cow in the middle of the street, stopping traffic on both sides.

Each time I pass one building on my way out of Tactic, there is a man with magnifying glass eyewear smoking a cigar standing in the doorway. He never has a beard, yet he looks like he never shaves either. He simply stands unaccompanied learing at passersby.

A Mazda pick-up truck is taxiing a half dozen people on the highway going about 20 km/hr. As I pass them, the front driver wheel is wobbling uncontrollably.

I wait in my car for Walter to come down from his 2nd story home that overlooks a pasture. A cow is runs down the street and dives through a barbed wire fence then holds it's right rear leg close to her body as it took a good slicing on a barb.


Decoding Presidential Speeches

Got this from Nate Knows Nada. 360 U.S. presidential speeches from 1776-2006 got put through a tag generator and so you can visually see how often words were used based on the size of the word. It's remarkable to see the shift in focus between eras and presidents - notably words like:



God's Eye View

Today, I was able to see with God's eyes things that only He could see a hundred years ago.

This is my child who will be born in April of next year. We drove into Cobán and had an ultrasound done. I filmed almost the entire appointment where we saw the baby wave his/her arms, open mouth, and wiggle. Pretty wild. Amber is quite excited about the prospects she's just discovered about where we can deliver this baby and with whom.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. Psalm 133:14-16

This is my home from outer space. Google Maps updated their satellite images of Guatemala, now they are one step down from the quality that you can see downtown New York City. My house is the lower of two identical ones in the middle north of the highway.
My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the LORD from heaven looks down and sees. Lamentations 3:49-50


The cemetery is a-hoppin'

Had to swing around the cemetery this afternoon to check out the Día de los Muertosfestivities. I dragged Amber, Blaise and Mariah along. This time, I wanted to talk to a couple people to find out what they believed about this whole thing.

Two camps.

One group of women told me that they figured the dead are dead and the living visit the cemetery with food, flowers, pine needles and paint (to spruce up the crypts) just to honour and remember the dead in their family. I asked them if they believed that the dead did anything special on that day and they said "no, no hacen nada." Cool.

Another group parties hard. Lots of liquor and they burn incense and make offerings to Maximón. Most of the partying is done at home and the Mayan priests are heavily involved. They told me that in Antigua it's way bigger, as big as Easter. I smelled plenty of incense in Tactic too. Bombs (basically sticks of dynamite) were being shot into the air all day too.


Welcome Mariah

We're so happy that Mariah is living in Tactic and working for Impact Ministries with us. Mariah was in my youth group when I pastored in St. Albert and she toured with me, Amber, Dean and Saison for a week in Guatemala 4 years ago after a mission trip. She is going to work with the Peters' children and their schooling as well as hopefully assist me in some of the sponsorship work. You can read about her experience on her blog.


Mr. Underpants Nosecheese

Oh yes! That is my son sticking cheese up his nose. I witnessed moments later as he popped the cheese into his mouth, followed by a satisfying "Mmmmm!"

I just placed the heavy bundle of joy in his crib with his bottle after bathing and dressing him. I'm amazed that even now, 15.5 months after his birth, Blaise is able to demonstrate a new skill or expression or sound or level of understanding every single day. He'll get things we ask him for and bring them to us. He knows how to turn on the TV. He stacks stuff to stand on so that he can hit the keys on the keyboard and "help Papa." He releases one hand from the bottle to put it in a sleeve. He braces himself on me while I undress him standing up. He obeys when I tell him he shouldn't do something. How amazing he is!

This is my dirty underwear. He plucked it up and stuck his head through it all by himself. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!


Hey Nostradamus!

My trouble is that I'm ambitious. And I'm undisciplined.

I both love the idea of reading great books and I enjoy reading great books. Oh, the other problem is that I read very slowly. The Lord of the Rings = 18 months. Crime and Punishement = 9 months. The Count of Monte Cristo = 4 months. Get the picture? And that's fiction.

Non-Fiction! Mercy! Here are the books I'm currently reading and some of them I've been reading for more than 3 years now. I really enjoy them, but there isn't a driving plot or characters to seize or mystery to solve or multiple layers to dissect. In order of when I first started them (note that one of them is fiction):
  • Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara by Jorge G Castañeda
  • The Silmarillion by J R R Tolkien
  • An Autobiography by Mohandas K Gandhi
  • Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
  • The Cross of Christ by John Stott
  • Story by Robert McKee

So this morning, instead of editing some home movies all day (I did it for 30 minutes and quit) and instead of curling up with one of these six treasures, I decided to read a whole book in one day. I picked Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland*. I had read his Life after God and loved it. I lay down at around 8 AM and finished it around 5:30 with small breaks in between to play with Blaise. I was blown away. What a charging book about spirituality! I had to get off the couch and go to the bedroom when I finished so I could weep a little in private at the ending (until a little man began tugging at my pants). What beauty! Blaise and I stared at the rain outside for 10 minutes. I let the book just soak in. I can't wait to get into another one of Coupland's books.

*Douglas Coupland is a Canadian author who lives in Vancouver. He coined the phrase "Generation X."


Comment Olympics Update

Back in June, I posted the frontrunners in the Zaakistan Blog Comment Olympics. Currently, the positions have changed very little...

running away with 92 comments
Sirdar (going strong)

with 41 comments
littledeb (gaining)

tied with 38 comments each
kevininspace (slipping, but recently married...) and RobtheRocket

Recently, I've discovered that gross or bigot blog posts generate the most comments. Nice. Thanks everyone for reading and commenting. I enjoy reading all of your blogs too.


Happy 50th to Mumma

Love you lots! Wish we could celebrate together. Check out the little video I made for her.

Here's to the 6th decade!

Yowsers! That Hurts!

This is what happens to my bald head far too often. The worst has come here in Guatemala where some families use old, rusty barbed wire for clotheslines. They stand at a height of 5'6", whereas I stand at a towering 5'10". Usually, wearing a cap helps cushion a blow, but not every time. Another bad deal is low hanging roofs made of sheet metal (also often old and rusty).

This time it was my own fault, I jumped out of the driver seat in the van and whacked my head really hard. I took my cap off and then rubbed the scraped skin off of the inside of the cap.


Open letter to Queen E

Dear Queen Elizabeth II of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

It is with a heavy heart that I write your highness this morning. I fear that relations between us may become colder than they have been in the past. It seems as though thy subject, my wife, has damaged a piece of thine property. I paid for it. Someone else made it. But it is thine.

You see, thy loftiness, I live in Guatemala and I have to carry my passport with me everywhere. I keep in in my pocket with my wallet in case a police officer wants to check my legality in the country. A few nights ago, I forgot my passport in my pocket. I don't remember putting the pants in the laundry basket, in fact I suspect someone else of doing that. I wasn't too worried when my passport went missing. I knew it would turn up soon. The problem is that it turned up sopping wet in the washing machine (thou havest these in Buckingham Palace, though I'm certain thou hast never had to operate one).

My wife suggested I blow dry the passport, which I did. I'm glad for that advice, because the sun probably wouldn't have done the trick as quickly. I can carefully turn each page (all 24 of them) and only a couple of the visa stamps are faded, but it's in rough shape. I add that this passport expires in March '07, so I am planning to get a new one at Christmas time.

I am begging thou not to have me flogged nor put in the stockade nor to put me in the tower of London. I assure you it was unintentional.

Begging thy pardon,

Zaak C Robichaud
Canadian Subject


Cellular (s)

As I am loading luggage into the vans at the airport, something dislodges my cellphone and it's case from my belt. I notice once we arrive at the place where we spend the night that they are missing. I look for it in the vans. Les calls it so we can perhaps track it down as it rings, but nothing. It's too bad because I have about $30 of minutes on it.

So the next day, I have half an hour to buy a new cell phone and I do. It is a tough choice between the cheapest and the most expensive. The most expensive one ($273) has Bluetooth and can play MP3s and videos and take pictures... The cheap one ($35) has nothing - not even a cable to connect to the computer - just like my old phone. I research the expensive one, a Samsung, on an Apple website to see if it is compatible with the software I use so I can synchronize my address book and calendar wirelessly. It isn't on the list, but it might be compatible!! So I get the cheap one (which includes such games as Snake (high score 240), Yahtzee, and Rapid Roll). The purchase includes $15 of phone time and double value for the first phone card I add each of the next 5 months (not a bad deal at all!).

I find the lost phone the same day I buy the new phone. It is under all the luggage in one of the vans.

I've got a lot of talking to do now.

[I use a Nokia 1110 with a Tigo phone plan]


Spoken to me today at lunch by member of a short term mission team member from PEI, no context needed as there really wasn't a context:
And those Frenchies, I have no use for them. And the worst ones are the New Brunswick Frenchies. I've got no use for them at all.


a hair

I know I may risk losing readers, but most of you don't leave comments anyway... I know my faithful readers will stick with me.

This morning I discovered a belly hair on my own belly that measures 9.5 cm (3 3/4 inches). Isn't that incredible? As I was measuring it, it detached from it's home of 216 days. Have no fear! I've found a secret place where Amber won't be able to destroy this part of me. Isn't it strange how a stray hair can go unnoticed for so long? Like all of a sudden you see there's this 5 cm hair growing from your ear lobe and you're like "what the?" or shaving daily you miss this one hair just above the beard line and it grows to 2 cm. I've noticed that I'm one of those men who can grow hairs to incredible lengths on my eye brows - like the great horned owl.

Maybe I just don't spend much time in front of the mirror. What am I going to see that I haven't seen these past 30 years, right?

[sorry no photo]


k-os' new album

I bought k-os' third album Atlantis - Hymns for Disco last night on iTunes 7 and now I'm burning a hip-hop fever all by myself. Listen! I'm not at all into the mainstream porno hip-hop, the stuff that's currently strangling top 40 radio. But k-os has thoughtful lyrics and the music makes me sweat and he samples so many genres:
Reggae in Mirror in the Sky
Blues in The Rain
Rock in Valhalla (with Sam Roberts)
Gospel in Sunday Morning
Folk in Highway 7 and The Ballad of Noah
Ska in FlyPaper
Classic Rock in Born to Run and Equalizer
Rap in AquaCityBoy
Disco in Black Ice - Hymn for Disco

I'm really enjoying an old album by Bruce Cockburn called "In the Falling Dark" as well. Gorgeous music from the 70's.


Low Charge

Battery died in the car yesterday, lights were left on. Amber got some jumper cables and those didn't work - I think they were too thin, but I didn't know that this morning.

This morning, the mechanic, Oscar, made a house call on foot with his plastic grocery bag of wrenches. He checked the timing belt. He checked the fuses. He carried the battery to the gas station where they charged the battery in an hour. He carried the battery back and put it in. Car started and he checked the alternator which was good too. The battery is just not very good.

How much did it cost? Q30. That's about $4.75CDN.


Runners of the Homestarrunner

For all the Homestarrunner fans out there, I found interviews with the makers of the hit Flash Cartoon site on the Cold Hard Flash blog. Part 1 with Mike and Part 3 with Matt. They are a monument to independent productions.



I rode my bike home from the office in the dark tonight. I'm not used to doing that for a couple reasons - we just changed our clocks here in Guatemala, so it gets dark an hour earlier (when the actual sunset only varies 30 minutes all year long!) AND it's dangerous so I avoid it when I can. I have to ride down a highway for 1 km that is unlit and that has claimed the lives of many people in recent years. What is perhaps most perilous though is the roadkill that I can't see. There was a dead dog on the shoulder next to our driveway 2 nights ago. Then there are the toads, the big toads. On the street that they are redoing in front of the office, there are open, unmarked manholes (I've already dropped my front right car tire in one of those babies) to dodge in the dark. Plus it's raining, so visibility is distorted by the reflections of whatever light is coming at you. Just a tiny bit freaky.


Which one is he?

(click on it to see full size)

Sirdar posted his and I couldn't resist. You can do yours here. Other folks that I didn't include on this collage are Strom Thurmond, Aidan Quinn, and Adrian Smith. I thought Jude Law was a shoe-in!

Celebrity look alike #1, Celebrity look alike #2 without hair and Celebrity look alike #3 with hair.

Check out my wife's. She'll probably post it on her blog too.



So. I walk out of the office this afternoon. Pull out my keys to unlock my bike and someone has jammed something into the lock so that the key can not be used. Fortunately I have a metal saw on my Swiss Army Knife. Seven Long Minutes.

Spent 3 long days this week handing out prescribed medication to infants, children, adults and elderly people in Chicoy. Aside from vitamins, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, I passed out the most meds for worms, scabies, and coughs. The cough syrup (and everything else for that matter) was distributed in sandwich bags so that the people wouldn't be tempted to sell their medicine.

Merle, one of the men from the New Brunswick team that left this morning, spent 20 minutes with me at my house showing me what I could do to lower my power bill and get more dependable power througout the house. One of the main things was stringing 10-gauge wire from the meter to the house (about 40 feet), replacing the 12-gauge that is there. Adding another 2 breakers is also on the list. I just replaced 3 burnt out bulbs with 3 flourescent ones too. The incandescent bulbs (touting a 1 year guarantee) burn out very quickly.

This dude cracks me up. I love this dude.

Tonight Amber is "letting" me watch The Fellowship of the Ring. I haven't seen any of the trilogy since my birthday last year when I watched all three extended versions back to back. Oh! That was sweet! I've been aching to see the the films since last February, but my DVDs were stolen, so I couldn't until late August when Rick Mutch, bless him, gave me his set. I've been busy for the last month, so this is the first opportunity I have to spend 210 minutes in front of the tube.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I went to a naturopathic doctor. One of my tasks is to go off of a variety of foods to see if I am intolerant of some of them. I picked the hardest one first: DAIRY. For the past 10 days I have resisted eating cheese and yoghurt and arroz con leche. Monday night was especially difficult where my supper was cheese tayuyos with a rice and milk drink. I made it through, noticing very little difference in my body. Today I binged on goats milk and in 2 more days I get to binge on cow milk products.

My big jobs right now, aside from working with the short-term-teams (only 2 more left this year) are: 1-Produce a promotional video for the child sponsorship program. 2-Produce a gift catalog that can be distributed this winter so people can bless some of the poor families in Tactic with stoves, cement floors, laying hens, etc... 3-Finish translating 400 letters from kids to their sponsors and get the last 33 photos of them up to Canada for printing and mailing.

Hoping for another episode of Law and Order (it's the only show I watch) on The Universal Channel, I ended up watching the premiere of Psych. I laughed the whole 90 minutes and I'm looking forward to next Wednesday night for the second episode. The show is kind of like a Sherlock Holmes meets the Hardy Boys meets Scrubs. Kind of corny, but hilarious! Apparently, it's starting its second season in January, so I'm behind the times. I remember loving the Edison Twins when I was young.


Royal Blood

Beginning 46 generations ago:

Pippin of Landen I (b.580)
Saint Begga
Pippin the Middle of Herstal II (b.635)
Charles Martel (b.686)
Pepin the Short of Neustria III (b.714)
Charlemagne - Holy Roman Emperor (b.742)
Pépin d'Italie I (b.773)
Adélaïde d'Italie
Rothilde d'Italie
Boniface d'Italie III (m.875)
Adelbert d'Italie II (m.915)
Béranger d'Italie II (m.936)
Adalbert d'Italie III (m.955)
Othon-Guillaume de Bourgogne (m.975)
Renaud de Bourgogne I (m.1023)
Guillaume (dit Tête Hardie) de Bourgogne I (m.1040)
Gisèle le Bourgogne-Ivrée
Adélaïde de Savoie
Pierre de Courtenay I (m.1152)
Pierre de Courtenay II (m.1193)
Eléonore de Courtenay
Philippe de Montfort II (m.1244)
Eléonore de Montfort-L'Amaury (b.1260)
Jeanne de Vendöme (b.1280)
Jean de Sully II (b.1300)
Louis de Sully I (b.1330)
Marie de Sully heiress de Craon (b.1360)
Georges de la Tremouille (b.1386)
Marguerite de la Tremouille (b.1425)
Hector de Salazar (b.1450)
Sieur de Salazar
Hector de Salazar (b.1530)
Marye de Salazar (b.1560)
Charles-Amador Saint-Étienne de la Tour (b.1593)
Marie Saint-Étienne de la Tour (b.1654)
Alexandre LeBorgne de Belleisle (m.1707)
Marie LeBorgne de Belleisle (b.1717)
François "Niganne" Robichaud (b.1752)
Anselme Robichaud (b.1780)
Anselme Robichaud (b.1821)
Louis Robichaud (b.1857)
Alban Robichaud (b.1895)
Uldège Robichaud (b.1923)
Ronald Robichaud (b.1950)
Zaak Robichaud (b.1976)
Blaise Robichaud (b.2005)

This of course is one strand of more than 35 trillion that go back 45 generations before Blaise. In other strands there is much royalty from such places as Macedonia, Sweden, Ukraine, Czech, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Frisia, Hungary, Abénaquises Nations.

King Louis VI the Fat , king of France in the early 12th century, and his king fathers also make the list, Louis going back to 27 generations before me. "Frank"ly I'm glad that I got out of the line of kings early on.

I accidentally fell on a goldmine of information when researching Francois "Niganne" Robichaud who was born 3 years before the Acadian deportation. I discovered that as soon as you start getting into the noble lineage, it's easy to find ancestors (both mothers and fathers) as they only married among each other (fortunately they branched into many many kingdoms) and impeccable records were kept to keep the lines clean.



We've been living in Guatemala for one year. Feels like a year, no more, no less.


Kissy Face

Blaise got a haircut from his old man tonight. Amber says he looks older without his little curls. I think he looks right brilliant!

A new habit of kissing has overtaken my son. The day we arrived in Tactic after our trip, Blaise kissed Hania about 12 times (she didn't move a muscle). Hania is one too, her parents house sat for us. Now, he kisses me and Amber all the time. It's pretty sweet.


I almost got stuck in a funeral procession yesterday afternoon. I drove by the cemetary about an hour later and saw the crowd there. Our neighbour tells us that a 17-yr-old boy went to Guatemala City in August to work and was robbed and killed there a few days ago. He's from one of the villages in Tactic.

A man from our church, father of 4 little girls, left for the United States in pursuit of money. He says he'll be back in 5 years (the oldest girls - twins - will be 13 then).

Scribing by Light

Carl tells me about this new-fangled DVD burner that burns images onto the top of DVD+Rs. I decid this would be a good investment for Zaakistan Productions. I go to go buy one of these burners for my Mac in Moncton, NB and there are none, so I have Carl ship one to me in Montreal. I wander the wet streets of Montreal looking for the special DVD+Rs to take back with me (I'm certain these things aren't available in Tactic). After 9 stores and nothing, I arrive at a second Future Shop and it's really hopping. I look around and I don't see what I am looking for, so I log onto a computer there and I find out that this is the only Future Shop in Montreal that has some Lightscribe DVD+R. I talk to the disk department guy and he says "If you can't find it, neither can I." Nice. I give up and have supper with Gabriel. He tells me of a store (Micro Bytes) on Saint Jacques that I should check out. The next morning I do, and I buy the last 6 packs of 10 there.

Early this morning, I finally get the right combination of factors in DVD Studio Pro to burn a final copy of my selling DVD of "Strength and Honour." It looks sharp on the TV. I try to burn an image onto the top of a DVD and it doesn't work. I'm told by LaCie support that I need the software updates, two of them (750KB and 1.3MB). No problem, if I have a good internet connection, which I don't. So between office errands, I drop into a internet lab that I've never tried before and ask to hook up my PowerBook - after some delay and bewilderment, they let me and I download the updates.

Now, I'm home and there is just 7 of the 21 minutes left to burn the first DVD label.




We're back. It's good to be back. It's really great to be back.

Thought I'd post some one sentence anecdotes from the trip:

*Blaise forced a mechanical Barbie to dance with him.
*I completed more than 40 Sudoku puzzles on the plane, train, and at Mémere's.
*I enjoyed Indian, Lebanese, Guatemalan, Italian, Japanese, Acadian, and Québecois food on the trip.
*I loaded a taxi at the Aurora airport in Guatemala City with our 9 pieces of luggage and then promptly unloaded it after the driver quoted a price triple what the standard rate is.
*We were pleasantly suprised that despite connection times of 40 and 50 minutes, all of our luggage made it with us on our 3-flight return trip on American Airlines.
*Went to the beach (Atlantic Ocean) only once though it was 10 minutes away from us for 8 days (because it was windy, but mostly because we were lazy).
*We did some shopping and eating and business on the block facing Dawson College the day after the shootings.
*I managed to restrain myself and bought 26 films on DVD during this brief stay in Canada.
*Visited a naturopathic doctor in Moncton and was given sulphur pills, flax, and baby bum balm as my remedies.
*I rallied a mini-uprising (which will express itself tomorrow morning via phone calls to a head office) at the fingerprinting department of the Montréal RCMP building because the guy doing it took 90 unannounced minutes for a lunch break during an 8am-2pm shift (punk).
*Got off at 10 different subway stations in Montreal and took 5 different buses.
*I went to Kevin's bachelor party.
*Took Blaise on his first canoe trip, up and down the little river behind Mémere's.
*Despite my best intentions, I watched only 23 films (8 features, 8 shorts, 7 documentaries) at the Film Fest plus about 6 that I walked out of early on.
*The radiator and waterpump quit on my father's car on our 10 hour trip to New Brunswick so we spent the night in Fredericton.
*Blaise was frequently mistaken to be a baby girl in Canada, dispelling our belief that Guatemalan's couldn't tell because they weren't used to seeing blond babies.
*After filming for two weeks on our handycam, I discovered we were trying to record on a head-cleaner tape (shocking!).
*About 95 people saw my film at the festival.
*I spent an entire afternoon walking around downtown Montreal looking for the special DVD+R discs that I'm going to produce my DVDs on - only to find them first thing the next morning.
*I didn't read 1 page in either of the 2 books I brought with me.
*Blaise's bottom would not accept the suppository we tried to give him on the overnight train.
*I've lost the keys to the case I just bought for my video camera, after locking it of course.

More happened, my weak mind isn't able to remember much more than this at the moment, perhaps I'll add a few more as they come to me.


Fascism in Canada

One aspect of fascism is "forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism." My Prime Minister, the Honourable Stephen Harper, has decided (I'm a bit behind in this, I confess) to not answer questions posed by the press, unless he gets to choose who asks. 5 months ago, he issued a statement saying that during press conferences, only those reporters who were on a list would be able to ask questions - AFTER HE WENT THROUGH THE LIST AND CHECKED OFF THOSE HE FELT COMFORTABLE ANSWERING. This is unbelievable.

The press responded by banding together and no one adding their name to the list. They have also tried contacting the Prime Minister's Office for answers to particular questions, but never get a response. So, the PM of Canada is going about his business quietly and the people he governs do not know what is going on. Maybe wiretaps and a gestapo are in the works? Hmmm?


Acclaim for Film, Fest & Friends

Well. As it turns out, people love my film! Both screenings of the film at the Montreal World Film Festival went absolutely splendidly.

The first show, on Thursday afternoon, had about 25 spectators. I had the opportunity to present the film and conduct a question and answer period afterward where nearly everyone stayed and participated. The comments were so supportive and the questions displayed a huge interest in the trip. Of course, anyone who was willing to pay $6-$10 to see a film entitled "Strength and Honour: Cycling Canada Coast to Coast" would already have some interest in the matter. A few people had relatives or friends who had done a similar trip.

The second showing was at a better time - 5:30 pm on a Sunday, during rainy weather. The crowd swelled to around 70 people. I really can't express the joy I had at the audience's reaction to the film. So many compliments. One woman said it was the best of many films she had seen at the festival this year. I think the personal and natural way the story unfolds allows the audience to empathize with the characters.

As far as the festival, I had a great time. As a presenter of a feature-length film, I was given a pass to attend any film I wanted throughout the 12 days (I was there for only 7). I was also invited to the film-maker hangout where there was a press gallery and video library and coffee/tea and tables to visit with filmmakers and distributers. I spent a little time there, a bit shy of the whole process, but I got a good idea of how the business works. To my knowledge, no one tried to contact me for distribution, so I'll do it myself with DVD sales and contacting different television and cable stations. I already have 17 pre-orders of the DVD. Kurt is wanting to set up screenings here and there to fundraise for out next project. You can check out the showtimes for updates there.

It was awesome to have Justin along for most of the week. The festival gave him a pass like mine as he did the soundtrack for the film. We went to a lot of films together. Among the better ones:
  • Regarding Sarah (Canada)
  • Nachbeben (Going Private, Switzerland)
  • Unspeakable (Canada)
  • Kargaran Mashghool-e Karand (Men at Work, Iran)
  • Sök (Search, Sweden)

    I have to send a HUGE thanks to the following people how came from far away to share the world premiere with me: Mom (from Alberta), Justin (from Michigan), Kurt (from Alberta), Papa (from New Brunswick), Amber and Blaise (from Guatemala).

    And another MASSIVE thanks to those who received us with true Montreal hospitality: April, Gabriel, Kevin, Mati and Cecil (who opened their homes for us to sleep) and Danny, Aimée and Noah (for the terrific Québec meal). It was also great to see Peter, Shari, Tristan, Brenna, Fern, Melanie, Michel, Richard, Claudine (my translator), Gatama, Brent, Jocelyn, Veronique, and everyone else we saw in town. We are so loved. We love them all too.
  • 27.8.06

    11 hours of culture shock in Miami

  • "Why is the garbage can so far away from the toilet?"
  • "Why is no one smiling?"
  • "Where are the little corn tortillas?"
  • "Oh the joy! Oh the sweet joy of washing my hands in hot water!"
  • "Have all the roosters died?"
  • "I feel really short."
  • "I didn't have to remind my waiter 3 times to bring my drink?"
  • "Why does no one say 'pase' when I say 'con permiso?'
  • "Where are the diesel fumes? I thought Miami was a big city."
  • "It's 5:30 am, why isn't there a taxi across the street honking his horn for 20 minutes?"
  • "Um, I just downloaded a software update of 8.3 MB in 18 seconds?"
  • "There's a glass in the bathroom. As if I'm going to drink from the tap!!!"
  • "I don't have a cell phone on my hip and no keys in my pocket. Something bad has happened."

  • And 7 of these 11 hours have been asleep!


    Aviones, Trenes, y Automobiles

    Our plane was delayed coming out of Guatemala City this afternoon - about 80 minutes late. Add to that the 60 minutes it takes to go through the passport check, luggage collection, customs and finding the airline desk - we missed our connection to Montréal. So, I'm typing from a posh hotel room (with free wireless) in Miami after enjoying a bounteous meal, courtesy of American Airlines. We arrive in Montréal 18 hours after we intended to arrive there, so Amber's a bit choked as that was all her sister April time.

    We took 7 hours yesterday to complete the usually 4-hour trip from Tactic to Antigua - this included 2 breaks, but it still felt really long. Construction caused the delays mostly. My friend Bernd rode with me all afternoon in the car and that gave us a chance to catch up and talk about all manner of things - personal and ministry related. Good stuff. The car is parked at a seminary while we're gone. Took a cab from there to the airport this morning.

    Our travels these coming weeks include Montreal (Film Festival and friends and family), then New Brunswick. We'll hitch a ride with my father from Montreal to NB likely. The trip back to Montreal we plan on buying Via Rail tickets. Amber is very excited about taking a train. The only other time she took one was into NYC from upstate NY during spring break 2 years ago.

    Blaise has been a really awesome traveller so far. He's been bucking his head though, giving me a bruised lip and lots of tears for the little guy. I joked that if he broke my sternum, I could sue the airline. It was funny at the time. Everything has been funny today. I'm so tired.

    White Forest

    In Poqomchí, zaak = white and che = forest. My name therefore means white forest.

    Maybe birches in the wintertime? Hmmm? I did peel about 3 weeks ago after a good sunburn, like a birch, but I don't think anyone could have made a canoe with the skin bits.


    Film Screenings

    Strength and Honour is scheduled to screen at the National Film Board Cinema on Rue St. Denis in Montreal. Times are:
    3:20 pm on Wednesday Thursday, Aug 31
    5:30 pm on Sunday, Sept 3.

    See you there.



    I drive a van for the ministry when teams are here and occasionally for ministry errands. There are 2 vans - a Toyota Hiace and a Kia. The Kia incidentally has a wickedly annoying alarm system installed. I've had a mishap with both of the vans.

    Mishap #1: Backing the Kia out of the Beerseba School, you must back it onto the street. On one of my attempts, the van was too close on the left to swing the van out. Anticipating this, I backed out halfway so that I could pull ahead further to the right to allow the van some room. When I went to pull ahead in first gear, I didn't do it fast enough (there was a vehicle ahead of me that I didn't want to crash into by gunning it) and the van rolled back crunching the driver mirror and front left fender. BONUS: Les, Rita, fellow teachers, and a team from Canada were all present to witness the spectacle.

    Mishap #2: Driving home from the guest house in the Toyota through the northwest corner of the market in Tactic. It's a tight spot to begin with, but this time there were vehicles parked on the right-hand side of the street. I pulled the 15-passenger van up to the intersection and paused to check for pedestrians, cyclists, pick-up trucks and dogs, then swung the van to the left only to hear a big crunch. There are metal posts along the left-hand side of the street (for some unknown reason) and the ladder that sits on the left-hand side of the van caught one of these posts and ripped off.

    This has amazed me for awhile. Instead of building a bridge across the river in Sayaxche, the town has decided that it is more profitable to keep the ferry running. The ferry holds about 10 vehicles at a time and crosses the small river in about 5 minutes, charging each vehicle between Q10 and Q25 ($1.50 and $3.75). The ferry is a barge propelled with two outboard motors.

    Despite the mishaps, I've grown comfortable driving the vans. Driving my car, in contrast, makes me feel like I'm driving a Porsche boxster rather than a Kia Rio. I took this shot while driving of Mike taking a shot of the straight road that heads into the mountains.

    Creatures of the Peten

    Saw my first jaguar in Guatemala last week. Everything near tikal is either named after Tikal or Jaguars. The pelts of the jaguar were used by the Mayan kings of old. Now they are an endangered species.

    There were a pair of them at this little island zoo in Lago Itza. I was surprised at their size, I expected wild cats the size of ocelots or bobcats. Instead they were tiger or leopard sized. I was very impressed at their regal movements.

    While we walked through Tikal, the Red Willow group kept stopping to inspect the insects. I'm sure at least an hour was spent taking photos and filming the mites and their tunnels, the spiders and the beetles. This spider was huge, easily the size of my hand. There were three of them on three different webs that spanned three square metres. We watched as this spider spun a web around a captured fly, it was just like Shelob wrapping Frodo up.

    The group appeared to be just as fascinated, if not moreso, with the strange and wonderful wildlife they saw while in and around Tikal as they were with the Tikal ruins itself. Personally, what strikes me the most about the ruins is that they are ruined. These huge rock structures were slowly taken apart and covered with vegetation. The gods of the Mayans are long gone, holding no majesty in this age. The God of creation however...

    Red Willow in Guatemala

    It is so awesome to have 16 people from our home church, Red Willow Community Church, here in Tactic with us. What an encouragement! It's really refreshing for me to be able to converse with people that I have a history with - not having to begin at square one with every team member.

    The group is really awesome too - they're working hard and doing a great job in their children's ministry. I've enjoyed taking them to meet their old and new sponsor children. It's great to watch them react to Guatemala as well.

    A huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the gifts we received with the team. They made us sit down the first night in Tactic and open everything right there in front of them. I was choked up as I took the entire Lord of the Rings extended DVD trilogy out of the bag (thanks Rick, you're awesome!). That night we added 29 DVDs to the collection we started after every single one of our 300 DVDs was stolen at the end of February. The count is now sitting at 106 (including the 24 home movies that are backed up and need to be duplicated back home in Red Deer). I was also given some clothes, chocolates, some music, and a couple great books. Blaise and Amber benefitted the most from the gifts, only natural since they're so gorgeous - and, when their happy, I'm happy!